Book Review: The Cabal of Thotash by J. Zachary Pike

I’m a sucker for cults, chaos, and creatures that try to destroy the world. I’m the one nut rooting at sidelines and getting eaten by some horrible monster. I have made my peace with that. I wanted the cabal to succeed, to get past their inner power-play, sacrifice something else than a cat, and bring upon apocalypse, they didn’t. (Sorry to ruin your ending, but you might have noticed such an event to happen. Shame on you thinking it could have ended any other way.)

This was a fun short read and had a great potential to be intriguing and mind-blowing. Unfortunately, the writer hurried with the ending, left the characters thin, and provided a few weak jokes. I think another editing round would have benefited this and a lot. That said, The Cabal of Thotash had its moments. The mere concept is brilliant. Also, I liked to think of this book as a critique of how the original cause of religions or anything else easily slips away if there is a promise of money, orgies, and brand-new hybrid. Who can say no to that or donuts?

Book Review: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

I will come out straight away: I’m partial with Vonnegut. I love his work. It’s profound, surprising, imaginative, and funny. Not ha haa funny, but ha funny. If you think ha haa is better than ha, think again. Ha comes with thought and second sight, and ha haa just releases tension created before the laughter.

I would love to say The Sirens of Titan was another one of Vonnegut’s masterpieces, but it wasn’t. The first part of the book was intriguing and had so much potential, but then everything turned tired and short as if he couldn’t wait to be done with it. I’m disappointed that the book left me only with a few ideas and profound sentences to play around. Vonnegut could have taken his ideas about free will, religion, war, and the meaning of life so much farther. I think he tried too much and ended up doing too little.

That said, I still enjoyed the book because of his unique voice. He is a spot on with his satire and has always something to say with his books. The Sirens of Titan wasn’t any different. It had a clear message and something he wanted to put out there or at least get off his chest and be done with it.

So, do we have free will? Do I act according to my own needs or am I guided because of some great plan (divine or not and in The Sirens of Titan’s case not)? If there is a great plan, I’m disappointed with it. You only have to look around to see it isn’t working or acknowledge that the end is dark and twisted. If this our obsession with money, power, and violence is part of it, leave me out. Then again, if we have free will, we are doing hilarious things with it, wasting it on stupidity and harm. I guess that is what Vonnegut tries to tell us with all his books that humans are peculiar and don’t know what is good for them.

Self-Publishing and My Doom!

Doom, doom, doom, do-be, do-be doom. I had one of those mornings. Doom. I took my cat, went back to bed to reset my brain. It worked fine until the cat decided I was too hot and went away. Its fault, the little furball of heat. The cause for my feelings of doom (okay, not saying the doom word again because of it causes Gir’s Doom song playing in my head, and that would take the gloom away) was I woke up thinking my tax forms. Now you get me. I got advanced taxes for the possible income coming from my book. This caused me to spiral into madness and depression. My mind to scream: “You are not going to make it.” And no, I didn’t get off that easily, it went on saying, “You are nothing.” “What you made is shit.” “You are making all the wrong choices. How can you even think about resigning?”

Yes, my mind is a dick, and it has a lot more to say. It sees all the faults in my book and marketing: the cover’s contrast, weak marketing “strategy,” being lazy and unsocial on social media. And all this is the cat’s fault. He should have ignored the heat wave and lied with me as a mass of burning cinder next to my ever warmer husband. But no he (the cat) had to be insensitive and get up and remind me I as well have to leave to work.

I guess it’s normal to dread before a publication date (August 12). Still, I don’t like it. Reality sucks, and I would like to say crit to it. I hate that my mind panics. I understand it might be a good thing, aiding me to push towards action by inspiring me somehow to kill the tumult inside me. But I don’t want to act on my first instincts when I’m like a deer in the headlights. First, I have to calm down and not to force my cat to endure my craziness. I tried to watch the sky while listening to piano music, but the sheer clouds and the piano sonata made me cry. (I know I’m a complete basket case now. More than often enough I can be rational, in control of my emotions, and serene, but waking up five in the morning thinking tax forms derailed me.) Even when my mind is contaminated, a few decent ideas popped up as soon as the doom machine turned its gears. My thoughts momentarily went on thinking about Amazon Ads, BookBub, and Goodread’s giveaways. I have to look into them before my head spin out of control.

The thing is if I had had a publishing strategy, I might have avoided this. Then I would have been following steps, feeling the value of my actions and knowing I was doing things the right away. That is a huge mistake on my part. I wouldn’t have even had to invent those steps, I could have just followed Reedsy’s advice… (Wait for a second while I go bang my head against the wall)… But I found some steps undoable. What tripped me was the word “street team.” It sounded alien, still does. Now my mind is starting the blame game again and the usual fix (writing, which makes me happy and serene) isn’t working. (Shit, I just saw a customer carry a chocolate bar. Maybe I should tackle her, run away with her chocolate, and move under a bridge. Yes, I’m bad and drafting this at work. One of the reasons I have to quit. It is not that I don’t love bookshops, but the reality doesn’t meet the romantic idea. It can be boring and horrific. Sorry to burst your bubble.)

I’m not sure how to end this post. I don’t have a resolution, a high note nor any wisdom. Just a great urge to go home, find my cats, and form a pile. Yes, of course, me under them, I’m not up for that much of doom!

Sorry about the post and thank you for reading it. If you see me, make a funny face. I seem to have lost the comic in me, then again I might have never been one. Just a satirist and they (me) deserve all they get.

Book Review: Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned that I studied Social Psychology at the University. Nevertheless, I did. I judged this book as someone familiar with all the concepts introduced in there and almost all the experiments used as examples. Boring start, I know, but what I’m trying to say is due to my education I can honestly say: “Read this book!” Everyone should know how our unconscious mind affects our actions and thus the society.

There are so many cultural beliefs and psychological tendencies (familiarity influencing preferences and our habit of categorizing) which makes our societies that much harder for some: blacks, elderly, overweight, women to name a few. Then there are those who find it a lot easier to function in our societies, those with stars on their bellies (read the book.) And it’s not just that, the trouble is those who confront biases every day began to internalize them, taking the attributes given to them as something coming in, and that is bad, believe me.

If those kinds of revelations about yourself, others, and our societies make you scared to open the book, I say stop being such a coward as not all hope is lost. That is the point of the book, we have to acknowledge the biases hidden inside us before we can do something about them. (Read the book!)

Even when the book’s concepts were familiar, it was a good read. More than often enough it’s beneficial to remind oneself of these factors. Not to forget how my own choices in life have come to be and how they have been influenced by my upbringing, TV-shows I have seen, who my neighbors are, and what I see in the mirror for starters. (Read the book! Now I’m annoying you. Good. At least you will remember it and might accidentally on purpose pick it up. If that happens, please forget that I even existed and caused any discomfort.) And I did learn something new. I love the fact I know why ducklings can consider wellies to be their mother. Not a very important factor to take out of this book, but something new at least and possibly can be used to take over the world. (No, there is no guide to that in Blindspot, just my sick mind playing tricks.)

So, what is my conclusion? You might guess it. Mentioning it the fifth time might make you break your screen or do something else as drastic. We don’t want that. I listened to the book. The audiobook version offers a PDF attachment to do the test in it. There are tests! Did I forget to mention that? Anyway, the studies in the book are sound (at least for now, until proven wrong.) I found its argumentation to be compelling. This is a great stepping stone to dive into the matter of the biases we have towards other people and groups. Also, it is an important book more so now than ever. (Okay, there might have been a time when the world desperately needed it, and if I ever invent a time machine, I’m sure to send a copy of the book to that era. I’m not rich enough to do that, yet.)

Book review: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Dear Hemingway, why aren’t we a fit? I read your A Farewell to Arms and first fifty pages you gripped me, but then I couldn’t wait but to be done with you. With the Old Man and the Sea, I gave you a second chance to convince me you could be my classic as well. I grew up in a sea town, and I know the deep dark blue waters and their secretive nature. I waited for your book to speak to me like you did to so many others. I wanted to hear your words about aging and man versus nature, but I heard your words and they banged hollow inside me.

I can’t completely ignore you as I have to say kudos to you for getting the tone right. I have heard many men who sound like the old man. So, there is truth in your book. Even when I can cheer at you how well you wrote it and how important it must be, you left me cold, indifferent, and out of your gang. All I can do is wish you all the best and many readers!

I tried to write a normal review from The Old Man and the Sea, but my mind went blank. Deciding to write a letter to Hemingway was the only way to get the text flowing. I’m disappointed myself when it comes to Hemingway. It feels like I’m not privileged to some secret so many seem to know. But I guess if I need to remind myself of my mortality and smallness in the face of nature, I can just go outside to watch the universe gazing down. Under the starry sky, I understand how insignificant I am and I don’t mind a bit. If I was the key to the universe, it would be a shitty place to be and I would recommend you to buy the first ticket out.

Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I had high hopes for this iconic feminist classic, and it failed me. Maybe it was because I didn’t find a secret to womanhood or any better understanding of psyche or it was because of all those experiences the main character had and said about herself and the surrounding society didn’t feel novel, new, and most importantly strange. That those same feelings of emptiness, inadequacy, and neuroticism are already in me. That all I heard with this book was bells ringing the same old tune.

As I write this, I understand that such an echo is valuable. That when Sylvia Plath wrote this, those feelings weren’t stated aloud. I know her work to be important and value it as it is, but when I read a book, I want to find something that makes me understand us humans, the world, or myself better, and that this book didn’t provide. That is not the books failing. I have arranged those themes and issues in my mind, knowing where they stem from. I don’t seem to be able to hold on anything of the book that is mine. The words keep slipping between my fingers, and the characters began to fade away.

Even when I say all that, I wouldn’t go back in time and stop myself listening to this book. It is an important book, and maybe it will teach me something I only find out later.

Now, what should I say to you dear reader about if you should pick up this book and read or listen to it? I wouldn’t steer you away from it. I think this is a book you should judge yourself to form your own thoughts. It might speak to you, anger you, sadden you, or make you feel indifferent. I cannot decide for you.

Self-publishing: Keywords and Categories

Ha, I came back to keywords and categories, and I still remember promising you to tell about my adventures with setting up a business bank account. However, I won’t bore you with that now, just with exciting things like categories to push your work into. If you are groaning already, I promise there’s a dance at the end (boring one, mind you.) No gifs as I have to admit I have never tried to produce one. I’m helplessly old-fashioned that way. You might laugh to know I’m writing the first draft of this blog by hand. Only then I will type it into my writing software (Scrivener). I do this because of writing by hand helps me think. That doesn’t mean it makes the text any better.

I should get back to the topic as I’m yet again derailing somewhere else. Keywords and categories. A few weeks ago (more like a week ago) keywords and categories were horrors from my nightmares. I was hopelessly lost. That is not the fault of Amazon or anyone else, just my own. I kept pushing the issues for a later date, thinking of them as impossible to do. To note: the categories and keywords I came up with are not perfect; some of them are good, others meh; but I’m going ahead with them as those I saw more exciting wouldn’t be anything someone would type into Amazon’s search bar. Shame on me for thinking inappropriate things (now you are wondering what they might be. I leave your imagination to fill the caps as I couldn’t come up anything as nasty as you would, and you know it!) Good gods, I don’t seem to be able to stay on the matter at hand. Yes, let’s move away from the dreary subject and let’s have a dance party. Ha, fooled you! Not yet.

Okay, maybe I didn’t fool you as you can see there is more text below and you my dear reader are not an imbecile like I would be. What was I saying?

Instead of thinking categories and keywords as this horrible monster who hunts you and has only one purpose in life and that is to sit on your chest and smother you to death, act and slay it! Stash it under your bed where it belongs by googling about Amazon keywords and categories. There are many helpful sites about them, and KDP’s own site being one. Amazon is your friend, use it. They want to help you sell your book to make money out of you. (Hurrah!)

Okay, I might as well give you some clue how to find keywords. Go and find on Amazon book(s) that are close to yours. See what words they have used on their title, description, and under what categories they are listed (you find those by looking at their sell ranks. Amazon has helpfully provided you the necessary information under Product details.) Now do this several times to different books, and you get a clearer picture under what category you want your book under and what keywords there might be out there. I recommend you copying categories, titles (+writer’s name), and possible keywords to Word, Excel, or even to a notebook, whatever rocks your boat. After you have done this, you began to see what keywords might be useful and what are the two possible categories to put your book under. What I did with my categories was look at the path at the top of a book whose category I wanted to get into (getting there by navigating the side panel!), copied it and pasted it to KDP help query and sent it (+ the second one) along with my ASIN and rest of the info to Amazon. They have a pre-made email for that, and all you need to do is fill your info and be polite. They added me into those categories.

I ended up making one mistake. That was going a category too far. (Kindle Store : Kindle eBooks : Science Fiction & Fantasy : Fantasy : Humorous : Gods & Goddesses.) Gods & Goddesses is not a category. It is a keyword. Amazon helpfully pointed that out for me and send me info/link how to get onto that list. When I saw their helpful and polite email and that they added me to those categories I wanted excluding the Gods & Goddesses, I smiled and danced. You can try that now. No need to get up or anything that fancy. Just smile from ear to ear. Then wave your hands in the air, and maybe do something with your chest, circular motions! (I warned you that the promise of the dance was better than the actual dance. You should have trusted me. If you suddenly seem to think dancing can’t be this boring, yes it can! If you happen to be doing with me who has an underlying distrust of anything others might call fun.)

I need to stress that when you send the inquiry to Amazon be polite as *** and they will be helpful. And yes you should go an extra mile to getting your book under a precise category because of the two categories you choose will affect your sales. Also, think the keywords as subcategories which will make your boom pop out from the sea of books.

Before I finish this post, there is one thing I need to say about keywords. Go to the incognito mode of your browser, open Amazon, and slowly type your possible keywords in and test them. That is to see what people have actually searched from Amazon (not the kinky stuff you came up with.) Be slow about filling the letters in, let Amazon suggest the word. Then pick the best seven (all of them.)

I learned all this from Amazon and other indie writers. So for now, I have bested my beast, but the battle isn’t over. If there is trouble with my sales, I have to go back and tune those keywords and categories. (Also, follow Amazon’s rules with the keywords, don’t be a dick. They will punish you. They are a mega-corporation and I’m sure they have assassins.) The work never stops, does it?

Thank you for reading!